Local Fare: Aria’s Save The Lemurs Bake Sale

There are lots of proud moments as a parent. Some of them are skill based, those moments when you realize your kid is the only one who scored a goal in the soccer game, or when you hear your 5 year old sing harmony for the first time. Those are great moments, call the grandparents moments, point your child in that direction moments. Then there are proud moments for character based reasons. These really are the deeply and truly satisfying ones. Like maybe you’ve done something right with your little people. Maybe they get it. Maybe they understand that they are here to contribute to the world and make it better, more than they take from it and hurt each other.

I had such a moment last week. Picky Princess, who just turned 6, learned(via organics kids cereal box) that deforestation is causing lemurs in Madagascar to lose their homes. 22 of the 70 species of lemurs are endangered because of it. She was (rightly) horrified. And determined that she MUST do something to save the lemurs. I told her I would help her in any way and to let me know how she thought we could save them. I even offered suggestions: lemonade stand, benefit concert…But nope, she had already decided, BAKE SALE.

So thanks to social media, and our generous friends at Cornerstone Music Cafe who hosted us, we had to bake about 5 trillion cupcakes this past weekend. Ok it was 600. It was a wonderful day. Picky Princess gave her monologue, over and over, about how we need to save the lemurs. We baked and sold and baked and sold. Thank you to my beautiful friends who supported my beautiful activist child. Between all day friends and family who stopped by with coffee or to lick icing bowls, to late night friends who stopped by to drink wine with me when I was still baking at midnight…it definitely reminded me that…it takes a Village.

All in all, $300 or so was raised to save the lemurs. We will be sending a cheque to the Lemur Conservation Foundation. And I probably won’t bake cupcakes for a while.

I’m Inspired By: Bikram Calgary South

3 months ago, I stumbled upon Bikram yoga. I’ve been curious about hot yoga for a while, but thanks to one of those Living Social Deals, I signed up for 20 classes for $20. This was, without a doubt, the best $20 I have EVER spent. Bikram Yoga has changed my life.

I’ve worked out my whole adult life, in various levels of intensity. The last almost 2 years have been my super-fit years, running quite a bit and finally for the first time really committing to long term health and exercise. IronSister got me into running, which was amazing and I loved it and, in typical fashion, overdid it enough to be looking for a little change this fall. I will definitely run again, but I am enjoying the little focus switch.

I don’t know if I found the yoga or if the yoga found me, but I can tell you this: I have NEVER experienced anything like it. The 90 minutes in the hot room are intense, challenging, and empowering every.single.time. I’m just finishing up my 3rd month of practicing regularly, about 4 times a week and in some ways I feel so so new at it(which I am) and in other ways I feel like it’s a deeply valuable and solidified part of my life.

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures, 2 breathing exercises, 90 minutes in a room that is heated to well into the 40 degrees and high humidity. The hot room makes you detox(which I can assure you I feel every single molecule of sugar detoxing out of me, motivation to rarely eat it!). Literally the sweat pours off and soaks the towel over our mats. In the 3 months, eating healthy as I regularly do, working out only 4 times a week, I have noticed a more dramatic change in my muscle tone, strength and flexibility than ever in my life.

I cannot recommend this enough. If there is a Bikram Yoga Studio near you, you should try it. Even better, if you live around here, then you should stop by Bikram Calgary South!! This is the yoga studio I practice at. The people here are AMAZING. Seriously the instructors are amazing, inspiring, cheerleading, super fun people. They make everyone feel important, like it’s THEIR pleasure to have us there. It amazes me every single time. Lindsay and Morgan, the owners are just so incredible. Lindsay is a yogi goddess, and Morgan is about the friendliest most personable guy I’ve ever met. I’m not sure if he treats everyone who walks in the door like his best friend, or if they ARE his best friends…Heather is so sweet I always feel a little sad to leave her when the 90 minutes are over…Hillary could be a professional cheerleader as she rah-rah’s you through the intense work out…Annie is so calm and peaceful, it’s always easy to breathe through her class…Liana is so motivating and attacks the classes with so much energy, absolutely catching…Anne-Brit always seems to get the best out of me, partly because I’m terrified of her and partly from motivation that yoga has given her the body of an olympian.

Honestly, these people are my friends, whether they know it or not. I am deeply inspired by them. I have learned to be able to take 90 minutes, leave my stresses in the cold hallway, focus on breathing, on moving, on listening. I am stronger. I am happier. I am healthier.

I am grateful.

Thoughts On: Merry Christmas

Hello Friends!

Just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a very merry Christmas. The next few days are busy for us and and everyone else! I don’t anticipate a lot of blogging time. I hope that you all find peace and joy this time of year. I hope you have ample quality time with the people you love. I hope you eat delicious and healthy food. I hope you find a minute or two to reflect with gratitude on how the blessings in our life give us momentum, and how the hard times help us focus.

I am making a few cheesecakes for Christmas Eve and hope to post them tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll be back in a few days!

Merry Christmas!

Thoughts On: 30

I have not put much effort into hiding my mini crisis over this birthday. And all of a sudden it’s here.

I woke up this morning to the sun, in a hotel room, beside my Love, after a night of the most fun I’ve maybe ever had with some Fabulous Friends, after a week of being utterly spoiled. We had great coffee, amazing breakfast and came home to our Sweet Girls for lunch with my Amazing Family.

And I thought to myself, how could I want for more?

In my 30s, I am looking forward to enjoying more of the same blessings in my life: watching my Babies become Little Women, more time with Sexy Husband who treats me like I’m perfection, more fun memories with my Amazing Family, deeper depths with Beautiful Friends, same great coffee, same great food, (definitely more counter space).

Tonight is the 2nd Annual Village Girls Cookie Exchange. I’ll happily report back on our baked treasures and maybe we’ll even have a little giveaway this week!

More healthy and delicious recipes to come!

I’m Inspired By: Samaritan’s Purse

I’m sure most of you have seen the shoeboxes all over the place: red and green, filled or available for filling, with toys for kids all over the world who wouldn’t otherwise get presents this Christmas? Well Operation Christmas Child, a campaign organized by Samaritan’s Purse does the most amazing job with the Shoeboxes. Our church collects them, our favorite coffee shops collect them, then the boxes are delivered to the OCC warehouse where they are checked over to make sure they are full of safe fun things for kids, then taped up and sent literally all over the world. For the last few years, we’ve had Picky Princess help us fill a couple of boxes with toys and stickers and candy. This year we wanted to be a little bit more purposeful in our commitment to community activism. I know it’s always so much easier to be motivated and engaged in social justice issues around Christmas, but we really are going to try to plan something every month, where we go and serve the people in our community, or through an organization internationally. It’s an act of gratitude, that we have been blessed and so we bless others, an act of community, that we support those who need the support. It’s something we hope to deeply embed in the DNA of our little family. So last night we volunteered at the warehouse. What an incredible operation they have going! Completely machined by volunteers, we set up assembly line style, checking boxes, filling boxes, taping boxes, packing boxes. It was so fun! About the fastest 3 hours of my life. I stood at the the tape and was literally the last person to check and touch the boxes that will be transported and opened by a child somewhere around the world. I was quite teary thinking about this and imagining a 4 year old somewhere far away, no less loved than my 4 year old, no less deserving than my 4 year old, no less gifted and amazing than my 4 year old. To think that this shoebox may be their only gift this year, to think that their parents who adore them cannot provide for them presents and rituals of a special season, an afternoon of baking cookies, apple cider. I don’t know…it makes me sad. And grateful.

Anyway. Get involved. Find a shoebox, fill a shoebox!  Here’s a pic of us by a crate of shoeboxes.

elves

Recipe: Raspberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes

raspberry chocolate chip pancakes

It is a Saturday morning tradition, in our family(ok, tradition as of today), to have pancakes for breakfast! All week, Sexy Husband makes breakfast. It’s kind of his thing. Mornings are kind of his thing actually. He hits start on the coffee maker, which activates the not-so-subtle grinder, which functions as my alarm clock. I come down all crazy-haired and pyjama’d to my smiling giggling girls and breakfast on the table. I know, you hate me. ANYWAY, Saturday morning it’s my turn. Last night I gave Picky Princess the options: blueberry pancakes, coconut pancakes, raspberry pancakes…and this recipe is the result of her choosing. Hope you enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Makes about 15 medium pancakes

2 cups spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbs cane sugar (or brown sugar)

3 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

4 tbs butter, melted

1 cup raspberries, frozen or fresh

handful of dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat a pancake griddle to 375 and lightly butter it.  In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add in all wet ingredients and mix. Stir in raspberries and chocolate chips. Let sit for 3 minutes. Scoop small amounts onto griddle, they really expand and puff up. Wait a couple of minutes until bottom is turning golden and flip. When they are done, put them in an oven safe dish and keep in the oven on low heat just to stay warm.

*** tip *** the key to fluffy pancakes is to mix them as little as possible. You do not have make the batter smooth, it can be a bit lumpy.

Reminder that tonight I will make the draw for the Willams-Sonoma spatula set! If you haven’t entered yet, see the next post down for details!

Thoughts On: My Kitchen Table

My kitchen table is ugly. It really is. It looks more like a craft table, paint stains, burn marks from the glue gun etc. It’s also ridiculously small. Fits 4 people comfortably, but we manage to have up to 8 around it fairly regularly. It is by far the ugliest thing in our house. Sexy Husband and I bought it when we first were married. I think it may have been our first “big” purchase. Ugly ugly, very ugly.

It is, however, my favorite place in the house. Life happens at this (ugly) table. It’s a place where:
I’ve taught my child to print her name.
We’ve created beautiful masterpieces of crayon and fingerpaint.
We’ve enjoyed beautiful meals.
My friends have come and laughed until they’ve cried and cried until they’ve laughed.
Bottles of wine have led to long late night discussions.
Deep fears and secrets have been expressed and then shared.
Wedding cakes have been made.

Businesses have been started.
Recipes have been created.

Life changing announcements have been offered.

Dreams have been dreamed.

It’s a safe place. A happy place. A place where we sat for many hours studying when it was just Sexy Husband and university degrees. A place where we laughed for hours when IronSister moved in with us in Victoria. A place where our first baby used to lie on a sheepskin and watch us eat. A place where our second baby sits to discover the joys of blueberries and spaghetti squash.

Everyone who matters to me, my richest treasures are invited to this table. Come for coffee. Come for a meal. Come for dessert. Come for the conversation.
Welcome to our sanctuary. (just don’t mind that’s it’s ugly)

Cookbook Preview: Maple Apple Cake

I am VERY excited to make a cookbook announcement…cooking/photographing production is DONE! I can barely believe it. I might add a few more once it’s all together, but for now…done. Now onto the easy task of writing/editing/graphic designing/publishing (right). No I am actually very pleased with how it’s coming. I love the content. They are recipes I’ve written and use frequently and am confident to pass on. My photographer is brilliant, her work pure art. And I’m just starting back into regular September life with preschool schedules, gymnastics etc, so it’s easier to plan to write from the MacBook wherever I may be instead of cook all afternoon in the kitchen.

So to celebrate the end of one part of this journey…a little cookbook preview! This was the last recipe I did and it is such a delicious cake, it disappeared before I had much of a chance for a photo. I honestly do not think that your guests or kids or whomever your critics may be will have ANY idea that this cake is pretty darn healthy. It uses a little bit of butter, but mostly yogurt, a teensy bit of raw sugar but mostly maple syrup, so….it’s a treat, but just barely.

Quickly Disappearing Maple Apple Cake

Maple Apple Cake

Serves 12

Cake

3 cups spelt flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup raw sugar

3 eggs

1 cup greek style vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup maple syrup (the darker the better)

2 cups shredded apples

Glaze

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 with a rack in the middle. Grease a bundt pan. Sift together first three ingredients into a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate after each addition, scraping the bowl down each time. Add yogurt and maple syrup and beat until incorporated. Add flour and beat on low until just combined. Stir in apples. Pour into bundt pan and bake until cake is set and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean approximately 50 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a rack. Turn onto platter.

Prepare the glaze: in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add maple syrup and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, swirling the pan frequently. Add heavy cream and bring back to a slow boil. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until glaze begins to turn a deeper shade of amber. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Assemble: With a skewer(a chopstick works great), pierce holes in the top of the cake so that the glaze will soak in. Pour the warm glaze over the warm cake. Serve.

Enjoy!

Think Fresh: Quinoa

Quinoa Salad

Native to South America, quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a definite superfood! It’s been getting some positive media attention in the last little while, and rightly so! Quinoa looks a lot like rice, that has burst into little curly-ques. It has a wondeful texture, with a little pop and crunch when you eat it.

When I was pregnant with Foodie Baby, I decided to radically alter our diet, in hopes of having a)a natural birth after a dramatic C-Section with Picky Princess and b)the healthiest pregnant body I could possibly have. I read a fabulous book called The Gentle Birth Method by Dr. Gowri Motha. She presented a nutritional plan for having a healthy body and one of the most interesting things I learned is that according to the Standard American Diet(SAD), over 90% of the grain consumed is: wheat. Rice made up almost the entire other 10%. There are SO many amazing, healthy, and delicious grains for us to consume, but many of us just…don’t. Yet we have skyrocketing problems with wheat sensitivity, and she argues, that some of this is simply because we are over exposed to one grain, when we are designed to consume a variety. So I completely eliminated all grain products from my diet, for the duration of the pregnancy, and honestly, it was SHOCKING to me, at how wheat-centered my diet was. Wheat is in everything! Or at least everything convenient! And now I have reintroduced wheat, but try hard not to let it exceed about 25% of the grains in my diet. Quinoa became a new favorite of ours!

Nutritionally, quinoa is second to none! It has a full set of essential amino acids, which makes it a rare vegetarian complete protein. High in fibre, magnesium and iron, quinoa is also gluten-free, making it a great wheat alternative to gluten-sensitive diets.

Quinoa can be used in place of any other grain: pasta, rice, barley. It is great hot or cold, savory or sweet. Picky Princess loves to eat it with almond milk, maple syrup and cinnamon, and Foodie Baby loves it with goat cheese, lemon, garlic, roasted tomatoes and basil.

Tip: Quinoa is coated with something called Saponin. This makes it taste bitter and needs to be rinsed off. So rinse your quinoa well before consuming. The best way to do this is to put it in a large bowl, fill the bowl half way with water and then rub the quinoa between your hands to rub the saponin away. Rinse and repeat until the water becomes mostly clear, which can take several washes.

Here is a super easy and versatile recipe. You can substitute any of the vegetables for others, you can swap cheese and add anything else you like, but it’s a good base. Give it a try!

Quinoa Salad

Prepare quinoa. Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add 2 cups of well rinsed dry quinoa. Simmer until the quinoa curls, approx 15 minutes. Drain any excess water.

In a pan, saute one minced garlic clove with 3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt to taste. Saute for a couple of minutes and then pour sauce over the quinoa. Toss to coat. Add the juice of half a lemon.

Stir in two cups of chopped vegetables. This time I used fresh peas, roasted tomatoes and zucchini. Crumble over salad half a cup or so of goat cheese. Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled! This is an easy picnic salad!

Farmer’s Market Friday

I know. It’s not Friday. However every Friday morning, Sexy Husband and I pack up the girls and head down to my favorite place in the world (or at least my favorite place in my regular little world of Calgary): The Calgary Farmer’s Market! Thankfully, the Market is open all year, but it is definitely a booming place in the summer! Vendors from all over Alberta bring their fresh and colorful wares and I wade through the crowd in a state of blissful giddiness. There are many amazing vendors that, over time, I will have to write about. People who are doing their part to make local food available, to grow organic food, to support green growing. It is multi-cultural. It is fabulous.

We have our own little routine, which has become practically sacred in our house. It goes something like this: upon arrival, Foodie Baby and I head straight for Phil & Sebastians for the best coffee in town(congratulations to them on their recent win of the KRUPS cup of excellence award for the bazillionth year in a row). Sexy Husband takes Picky Princess to the bouncy castle. She jumps with glee while we sit in happy silence with our coffees. Magically, ever week, as we take our last sips, she decides she’s done with bouncing and off we head for “sweet pie” at Simple Simon Pies. She samples a rotation of delicious fruit pies and we hit up our regular stops: fresh organic farm eggs, some kind of new spice mix from Silk Road Spice Merchants, organic bananas from Lunn’s Farm, and whatever other produce that catches our eyes. The energy is spectacular, the air thick with hope that I have what you need and you have what I need. I love it.

In fact, I love it enough to make it a feature to write about. So from here on in, once I return from the Market on Fridays, I will write about the treasures and inspirations of the week. Watch for it: Farmer’s Market Friday.

Markets like this one are an amazing way to buy food that has not travelled very far, by people you can actually get to know and support, and who are passionate about what they do. They are an incredible source of inspiration and usually…great deals. Last I read, Calgary has 17 official Farmer’s Markets, so chances are…wherever you live, there has to be some too!

We are off to the Okanagan for holidays this Friday, so I won’t be at the Market this week… but here are some pics from past visits.

Picky Princess finding some treasures

Phil & Sebastians

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